Interview with: Bernadette Chapman
Company Name: Dream Occasions
Location / Coverage: East Anglia
What does Dream Occasions do?
Dream Occasions provides professional organisation for time-short clients who wish to create a stylish wedding or party to be remembered. The company specialises in social functions in East Anglia and have an unrivalled knowledge of suppliers and venues in the area.
How did Dream Occasions come about and how long has the business been going?
When I worked for a blue chip American company many of my US counterparts were hiring wedding planners, yet when I researched it here in the UK there were literally only a handful. I moved to the gorgeous village of Coggeshall, Essex, and decided I no longer wanted to have the long commute. I did some research and couldn’t find any other planners in Essex, thus at the end of 2002 I launched as Dream Occasions.
Have you always been interested in weddings and wanted to be a wedding planner?
When I was a little girl I wanted to be an air hostess as I thought that was so glamorous! But seriously, I worked in the city for 10 years as a PA, and prior to that in TV production; believe it or not the roles are very similar to what I do now as a wedding planner.
Why are you called Dream Occasions?
I always joke with students of the UKAWP that if you’re going to use your own name as a company, it has to be a name that sounds right; having a company called Bernadette Chapman Weddings doesn’t quite work. I knew I wanted to branch out into parties as well as weddings and the name needed to reflect that. I felt that the name Dream Occasions was perfect for the service I would be providing to clients.
What services can Dream Occasions offer to couples planning their wedding? What prices are your packages and what is included?
Our most popular service is our full design and planning service. This service is bespoke and tailored to each client’s individual needs. During our initial consultation we will have our portfolio and testimonial folder available for you to look at. We charge 15% of your agreed budget (larger budgets capped) or our minimum fee of £4,500.
Our second most popular service is The Handover, which starts approx. 7-8 weeks prior to the wedding. This service is perfect for couples who have planned their own wedding day but want reassurance there are no errors in the organisation they have undertaken. We charge £1,300 for this service.
“Thank you for pulling out all the stops for our wedding; I am so grateful! I honestly believe that without you it wouldn’t have been anywhere near as magical and perfect as it was!”
Why should a couple choose to use you to help them plan their big day?
I can offer clients honesty, professionalism and experience gained through my ten years (and counting) years in business. I am also one of two directors of the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners which exists to inject and maintain professionalism in an otherwise unregulated industry, so you can be certain you are in safe hands.
I aim to offer you the best value for your budget and recommend only our approved professional suppliers. You are in essence hiring Dream Occasions for our experience and knowledge, so whether giving advice on design or solving family disagreements, we are there, always by your side.
We will be honest with you at all times, we never accept commission, and any discounts are passed on immediately to you. We also comply with the UK Alliance of Wedding Planners code of business practice. Any supplier we recommend has been personally vetted by us and in many cases we have worked with them on previous events.
Which part of helping to plan a wedding do you enjoy the most and why?
I love the logistics of a marquee wedding, from working out the space, to lighting, to what size generator is needed. It’s a bit like a puzzle that needs solving, predicting problems and working out contingencies. Maybe it’s because I’m totally in control, I’m not working with venue restrictions. I have a fantastic team of suppliers well versed in marquees, and we all work together to create the perfect event.
Do you have a specific style of wedding you like to help create?
I guess my events tend to be classically beautiful with a high emphasis on food and entertainment. My clients always want their guests to be relaxed, and they love to build momentum throughout the day surprising guests at every turn.
“Bernadette understood how much of a creative input I wanted and I felt that she guided me to the suppliers who could achieve my goals. I was initially uncertain about using a planner as I wanted our wedding to be about us, both creativity and visually. I thought a planner might tell us our ideas were rubbish and lead us in a direction that was not ‘US’. In actual fact Bernadette made it all about us, our style and our family and friends…”
What are the best and worst things about being a wedding planner?
The best is seeing a plan come together. I love logistics in my job so I guess for me the buzz in knowing that the day runs as perfectly as we planned and knowing my clients are thrilled with their wedding day.
The worst is definitely the misconception people have on what the job entails. I spend anywhere between 150-250 hours on a wedding, I have approximately 15 meetings with a client, and most of my job is on the computer managing spreadsheets and browsing the internet. Sometimes people see what a planner charges but doesn’t appreciate the amount of work that goes into an event; perfection doesn’t just happen.
What is your most memorable experience of planning one of your clients’ weddings?
I have so many, but I do remember having to snap (nicely) “cut it!” at one of my brides who didn’t want to cut her amazing Choccywoccydoodah cake as it looked so beautiful! Then there was the time one of my brides crawled out the marquee through the catering annexe as the best man’s speech went on and on and on.
To read snippets of things that have gone wrong in the past have a look at my wedding planner rescue series on my blog.
What is your top tip for planning the perfect wedding?
Be organised from the outset, and separate the wedding tasks into manageable chunks so it doesn’t seem too daunting. Delegate some tasks to family and friends if possible, under your careful guidance of course. Most importantly set a realistic budget and stick to it; don’t start spending money on the unnecessary items until the big stuff is organised. There’s no point blowing your money on flowers if you cant afford to feed your guests.
Random question… What is your favourite song at the moment?
Blurred Lines by Thicke – it makes me dance at my desk.
Where can I find out more about Dream Occasions?
You can visit my website at dream-occasions.co.uk, or follow us on various social media outlets:
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/DreamOccasionsUK
- Blog: www.dream-occasions.co.uk/blog
- Twitter: @dreamoccasions
- Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/dreamoccasions
Or pick up the phone for a chat on 01376 561 544.